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Product, package, and FMCG PR: Has Dove bottled Real Beauty?
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) shelves recently, there’s a very good chance one size-related change won’t have passed by unnoticed.
Let’s get one thing clear, though, before we get into the nitty gritty of this particular blog post. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is one of the longest-running public-brand love affairs in the FMCG PR game. The concept being that women should celebrate difference in body shapes and looks, because everyone is beautiful, and should love themselves for their uniqueness. A stark contrast to what is still, shamefully, the media’s go-to stance on what the female form should look like.
But, despite huge success in the years since this campaign was launched, the latest attempt to re-emphasise the point hasn’t gone down particularly well with people on the ground. Or in shops, as is probably a more appropriate way to put it. The brand has decided to launch a range of new packaging that is supposed to reflect the differences the message aims to celebrate. Some are tall and thin, others short and round, and so on and so forth.
[Tweet “#DoveBottles – great idea or packaging blunder? @SmokingGunPR considers the evidence”]

So, what’s the problem?

Firstly, as the following tweets suggest, although some have spoken out to say they like the idea, not everyone is happy by a long shot (search Twitter for #DoveBottles if more evidence is needed)…
Several major media titles have already picked up on the fallout- The Atlantic, BBC, and New Statesman included. It’s also been pointed out, in this article on The Drum and elsewhere, how there’s a good chance consumers will feel more awkward about these ‘mirror image’ bottles- do those that are less curvy, or thinner, actually accentuate the potential for women to feel like they don’t fit in with the imagined ‘norm’ of the female form?
On the face of it, Dove’s decision is brave and bold- putting money where mouths have been for some time, and showing that they are truly trying to cater for everyone, and support all. However, this seems to have been rather miscalculated. People want personalisation on every level other than the most sensitive, especially when that personalisation is very much on display for anyone to see.
It would be interesting, although quite a challenge, to try and get sales figures through revealing which of the bottle shapes wind up selling the best, although we’d hazard a guess the original would still come out on top. It doesn’t try and pigeonhole the customer.
[Tweet “Do #DoveBottles overstep the Real Beauty mark? @SmokingGunPR”]
There’s also the argument that these new bottles represent a somewhat lazy approach to translating brand message into physical product. All companies are desperate to stand out from the crowd with fresh thinking and attention-grabbing concepts, even if they don’t sell into the highly competitive FMCG sector. But is this really the right way to go about it, or could there have been a more innovative- dare it be said, ingenious- approach to the ultimate challenge?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments form below, or hit us up on Facebook and Twitter to speak your mind on this week’s big marketing question- has Dove overdone it? – and in the meantime check out these unarguably worse packaging fails, which make this particular debate seem like small change…
Enough said.
[Tweet “@SmokingGunPR – hilarious packaging fails in response to #DoveBottles”]

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